this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; (Sports Network) - The defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints are showing signs of turning the season around and go for their third straight win on Sunday, as the club battles the San Francisco 49ers at Monster Park. After ...
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|10-26-2007, 01:31 AM||#1|
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Saints, Niners, on Opposite Ends of Streak
(Sports Network) - The defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints are showing signs of turning the season around and go for their third straight win on Sunday, as the club battles the San Francisco 49ers at Monster Park.
After scoring a mere 51 points over their first four games of the season -- all loses -- the Saints have recorded 50 points in the last two games, including a 22-16 win over Atlanta last Sunday.
Drew Brees and New Orleans rallied from a 16-14 deficit in the fourth quarter, as the Saints quarterback hit Reggie Bush for a four-yard score with 5:04 left in the game. Bush then converted the two-point try on the ground for the final margin.
Attempting to inch back into the playoff hunt, New Orleans will go for a three-game winning streak this Sunday after posting three such streaks last year en route to a 10-6 record.
At 2-4, New Orleans is in third place in the division, behind second-place Tampa Bay (4-3) and front-running Carolina (4-2).
The Saints will play their fourth road tilt of the 2007 season this weekend, and are 1-3 away from the Superdome this year. The club's first victory of this season came in Seattle on October 14, a 28-17 victory.
While New Orleans has rebounded from four straight losses, the San Francisco 49ers have lost four consecutive games after winning their first two games of the season.
The 49ers were at the Meadowlands last week coming off their bye, and were routed 33-15 by the New York Giants.
Making his second straight start in place of the injured Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer was under pressure all game. The quarterback was sacked six times, fumbled twice, and threw a pair of interceptions in the loss.
Dilfer made the start despite Smith returning to practice last week. However, head coach Mike Nolan decided to go with Dilfer over Smith, who is aiming to return from a shoulder separation suffered in Week 4 against Seattle.
Smith, a high school teammate of Bush at Helix High School (CA), participated in full at practice on Wednesday and may start this weekend, though he is considered questionable.
At 2-4, the 49ers sit in third place in the NFC West and will play their fourth home game of the season on Sunday. After defeating Arizona in its season-opening game at home, the club has lost two straight at Monster Park.
The 49ers hold a 45-21-2 record in the all-time series, but New Orleans has wins in six of the last eight head-to-head meetings. The Saints claimed a 34-10 home victory when the teams met last season. The Niners won the last meeting between the clubs in the Bay Area, a 28-27 nail-biter in 2001. New Orleans last won in San Francisco in 2000. The 49ers and Saints met twice a year as members of the NFC West from 1970 through 2001.
Saints head coach Sean Payton defeated the Niners' Mike Nolan in the only head-to-head meeting between the two, last season.
WHEN THE SAINTS HAVE THE BALL
After struggling through the first four games of the season, Brees is starting to return to his 2006 form. Last year, Brees passed for 4,418 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first season with the Saints. However, through the first four games of this season, Brees (1,394 passing yards, 5 TD, 10 INT) had thrown nine interceptions to just one touchdown pass. The signal-caller, though, has thrown four touchdown passes to just one interception over his last two games. Brees' main weapon continues to be Bush, who is New Orleans' leading threat on the ground and through the air. Bush had 54 yards rushing and five catches for 19 yards against the Falcons and has 298 yards running and two touchdowns on the season, as he continues to shoulder the bulk of the ground game with Deuce McAllister (knee) out for the season. And, with opposing clubs shutting down last year's breakout star, Marques Colston (26 receptions, 2 TD), Bush has caught a team-high 36 passes for 185 yards and a score. The explosive back had a career-high four touchdowns (3 rush, 1 receiving) in his only other career game versus the 49ers. Colston still leads the club with 263 receiving yards, while Devery Henderson (9 receptions, 1 TD) is averaging 20.3 yards per catch, including a 37-yard TD reception versus Atlanta. However, Henderson has had trouble holding on to the ball, forcing Brees to also look for David Patten (15 receptions) and Eric Johnson (28 receptions, 1 TD).
The 49ers lost to the Giants last weekend despite holing the club to a respectable 279 yards of net offense. However, 140 of those came on the ground, where the club is allowing 126.8 yards per game, 23rd in the league. However, the 49ers are holding opponents to 201.2 yards per game through the air, 11th best in the NFL. One bright spot on the unit continues to be rookie linebacker Patrick Willis, who led the team with 13 tackles versus the Giants. The 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Mississippi, Willis has a team- high 63 tackles on the season. Defensive end Marques Douglas added six tackles and is second on the team with 38 tackles to go along with two sacks. Linebacker Brandon Moore posted the 49ers' lone sack against the Giants, while Derek Smith had just the club's fourth interception of the season. The secondary will hope Brees throws some interceptions their way, as former Pro Bowl corners Walt Harris and Nate Clements have just one pick each on the season. Safety Keith Lewis did not play last week due to a hamstring ailment and did not practice on Wednesday.
WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL
Perhaps the return of Smith (461 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) will bolster the 49ers' lifeless offense. The club is dead last in the league in yards [213.8] and passing yards (125.0) per game, and is 31st by posting just 13 points per week. To make matters worse, despite having Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore, the 49ers are 26th in the league with 88.8 rushing yards per game. Gore (394 rushing yards, 3 TD) injured his ankle versus the Giants, but still finished with 88 yards on 14 carries. He did not practice on Wednesday, but should play against the Saints. If Smith can't go, Dilfer (463 passing yards, 3 TD, 5 INT) will hope that Gore can put together a strong game to take some pressure off the passing game. The 35-year-old Dilfer threw for 209 yards and two interceptions against the Giants, including a scoring strike to Darrell Jackson (18 receptions), his first as a 49er. Arnaz Battle (21 receptions, 2 TD) led the team with six catches for 57 yards versus New York, and also caught a touchdown pass. Ashley Lelie also made his first catches as a member of San Francisco, making two grabs for 52 yards. Finally, tight end Vernon Davis (12 receptions) returned from a two-game absence due to a knee injury and had four catches for 22 yards.
The Saints defense has also struggled this year and is starting to turn things around, though the unit is still ranked 22nd in the league by giving up 344.7 yards per game and 25th by allowing 25.3 points per game. However, the club has been solid against the run, especially as of late. New Orleans held Atlanta to just 75 yards on the ground, marking the fifth straight game the Saints have held an opponent under 100 yards rushing. It marks the first time New Orleans has done that since 1992. New Orleans also totaled three sacks versus the Falcons, one each by Charles Grant, Brian Young and Kendrick Clancy, and has eight sacks over its last two games. Grant (26 tackles, 2 sacks) also had five tackles and forced a fumble versus Atlanta, while safety Roman Harper (36 tackles, 2 sacks) and linebacker Mark Simoneau (28 tackles) had six tackles each. Finally, cornerback Mike McKenzie (23 tackles, 1 INT) had a pair of picks last time he faced the 49ers.
Bush remains a must-start each week because of his number of touches, while Brees is starting to redeem himself with fantasy owners for his earlier poor play, and should have another decent game this Sunday. Colston and Henderson both possess big-number ability, but will be going against two Pro Bowl corners. Instead, look for Johnson to have a better game, as he is second among NFC tight ends in catches. Few on the 49ers roster deserve a start this week. Of those few Gore is in the same boat as Bush due to his high number of runs and receptions. However, his minor ankle injury could limit his production this weekend. Also, Battle is consistent in the passing game, making up for the disappointing production of Jackson and Davis.
This contest features two teams heading in opposite directions, and that trend should continue on Sunday. The Saints rising offense should be able to put up enough points on a solid 49ers defense, while a New Orleans defensive unit is capable of handling San Francisco's stumbling offense, with or without Smith. Not only that, but the 49ers come into this game banged up on offense, another factor working against them. New Orleans, meanwhile, has enough weapons to stretch the 49ers defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saints 24, 49ers 17
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